Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Progress of a Self-Taught Photographer

You know what? I don't feel like posting a recipe today. I just don't! 

Instead, I'm going to talk to you a teensy bit about my back and whole lot about photography. Don't worry, this won't be too technical of a post :-)

I had my latest shot done today, right in the SI joint on my left side. I didn't enjoy the procedure very much because apparently, they don't numb the shot area like they do with an epidural steroid shot. Both procedures give you a little anesthesia beforehand, but the epidural hurt a lot less with the numbing agent added in. The shot may have hurt more, but the end results are better. Already! I noticed when I got out of the car after the drive home (about 45 minutes), I could already feel less pain back there. I'm super-pleased! The doctor said the results will take about 48 hours to be complete, so if I'm feeling better 2 hours after the shot, wow! I can't imagine how I'll feel after 2 days. This might be the answer people! I'm feeling pretty positive right now. 

And with that, let's talk photography! This girl is completely self-taught.  Trial and error is how I've learned. And everyone needs a starting point, so here is the very first food photograph I ever took-

Red Velvet Cupcakes, my specialty. I shot this on a first generation i-Phone. I didn't know a darn thing about angles, light, or even styling for that matter.

The next couple pictures are the very first recipes I ever posted on the blog. As I already mentioned, I didn't know anything about light for photography. So, not only was I shooting photos on that oh-so-old i-Phone, but I shot most of the first recipes at night. The color of food is not helped by the evening light.

I think this could have been an awesome shot. I think this photo calls for a smaller plate and a better angle. Oh yeah, and shot during the daytime hours, ha ha. 

Another night shot.

This was taken at night, but already I think I was improving with color scheme. 

Oh boy. This recipe is due for a Recipe Redux! This is the hubby's biscuits and gravy, which are famous in our family. I think I'll put this one on the shortlist to redo,  ha ha!

The previous 4 pictures were posted in the first year of the blog, 2011. By January of 2012, I wanted to improve. I was reading other people's blogs and realized there was disparity in the photography. My goal for 2012 was to improve my food pictures. Somewhere along the line (without consciously realizing it) I began to shoot all my photos during the day. You would think my brain would have told me it was because of better light but I just thought the pictures looked better during the day. Not exactly thinking critically there, I must admit. I also started to play around with angles. 

I was pretty satisfied with my photography at the time, and didn't think much about the next level. I continued to shoot food photography on that old i-Phone until we moved out of our rental in May of 2012. We promptly moved in with the hubby's aunt and uncle, and food blogging was put on hiatus until our new house was constructed.

The hubby and I spent a month in Oregon in October of 2012 where I did practice some food photography. My shots were pure luck, as I had no clue that my parent's kitchen with all of its glorious, natural, North-South light was perfect for food photography.

I remember thinking I was just a natural with photography back then. LOL. I just got lucky with lighting most of the time. But then, something happened that made me doubt everything I knew about food photography. Which was admittedly little at the time, but still. What happened?

We moved into the new house.

We moved in December of 2012 and I promptly picked up posting food recipes. I had huge issues though and I was clueless. Flabbergasted. All of my pictures started coming out with this weird yellow tint that I despised. Every picture turned out like that! Why??

The new house's windows face the east and the west!!! That is the reason. Both the rental house and my parent's house had north and south facing windows, which are best for natural lighting with photography.

Of course, I didn't realize this right away... or till years later, ha ha.

I just kept at it until one day the frustration peaked in January of 2013. One second I wanted to throw my i-Phone at the wall and delete my whole blog. I'm glad I didn't do that! After throwing my huge tantrum that day, I began to calm down. And I got on Google. 

That was the day I began to learn about light. I say began because I'm still befuddled on occasion. Tis' the process of self-learning :-) 

In my beginning stages of studying light, I realized I need to do photography at the right time of day. Originally, I thought between 11 am-1 pm on my dining room table was ideal. I also began to experiment with the hubby's digital camera instead of using the i-Phone. Every photography site I went to talked about these mysterious "iso" and "aperture" terms. The only thing I knew was that my i-Phone had no such settings. So I began to experiment with the better camera.

This picture was one of the first pictures I was actually satisfied with living in the new house. I definitely think it's too dark now, but I was proud at the time. I continued to experiment, sometimes with awesome results, sometimes with hideous results-


After a series of photos that came out like the above picture, I went back to the i-Phone temporarily. While the color was improved when I paid attention to light, I still wasn't getting the best results by using my i-Phone.

I felt like I'd taken a step backwards, so back to the digital camera I went. 

Cool angle, but I was still working on capturing the light correctly. More of that trial and error thing I was talking about.

I was really proud of this photo and thought I was really on my way! Then, I got another bummer-

Argh! I was so over the yellow tint by July of 2013. I continued to fight the good fight against natural light all through the rest of 2013 and January of 2014. Towards the end of February 2014, I had planned "Week of Salads" for the blog which required daily posts. At the time, I was shooting food photos from 11am-1pm. Due to a doctor's appointment, I missed my window on the very 1st day. I was panicked. 

Then I got a brilliant idea. If the back of the house was good for photos in the morning, wouldn't it make sense that the front of the house would be good in the afternoon? I thought so.

It turned out to be one of my best ideas ever. The light at the front of the house at 4 pm was 110% better than the 11 am light out back. I consider this a real turning point in my photography as I completely abandoned shooting photos in the back of the house. My new photography time was 4 pm.

My pictures became something I was insanely proud of at this point. I was proud of myself for figuring the light out, even if it did take abut a year and a half to get the hang out it.

Another turning point for me was when I posted Pecan Pie Cake. I linked it to several linky parties and gained the majority of my followers after posting it.

There was only 1 major problem. Only having one time per day to shoot is so restrictive. I'm not going to be home at 4 pm every single day. Not only that, but 4 pm is prime thunderstorm time here in Kentucky. It's not unusual to have an absolutely gorgeous, sunny day where an afternoon thunderstorm rolls in around 4. Clouds at 4 pm a majority of days was tough. The pictures just didn't turn out as well as I was always hoping they would. I was in a tough spot that I didn't see a way out of it. I mean, it took me more than a year to even figure light out, let alone how to deal with weather.

I'd become frustrated again. And then, one of my favorite bloggers posted something at the absolute perfect time. That post became another turning point in my photography. Although Lindsay had written this in January of 2014, she re-shared the article in October of that year. After reading her tips, I decided to ask for a photography light for Christmas. And photography light I got! I ended up getting the same one Lindsay recommended and wow! It took lots of trial and error, but I figured out artificial lighting. It helps that it is a really simple, fairly small light. I recommend reading Lindsay's article which talks more about the specific light that she (and I!) use. 

It was another turning point, as I thought these were the best photo's I'd ever churned out.

I continued to play and play, until once again the itch to improve came scratching. 
This time, I decided it was different lens I needed to improve my photos. And let me tell you, I got that new lens, a 60 mm, and never looked back. There was no trial and error. There was only improved photos.

My first shot with the new 60 mm lens.

So, that's where I am today. Because I've never been professionally taught or trained there's soooooooo much I don't know. With my artificial light, the settings on my camera pretty much stay the same. It gets a little dicey if I have to change them. I still get confused on whether I need more or less ISO. I have little experience shooting people and events, and none shooting at night. I'll get there eventually. The older I get, the more I think about going back to school, especially for photography. It's taken me 10+ years out of school to even contemplate it again, but I might be getting there. I'm not the best person for classrooms. I tend to get super-bored and daydream. I do amazing when I'm learning on a job, but put me in a classroom and I instantly have a hard time relating what I'm learning to real life. I can't learn from monotone droning, but I admire those who can. I just can't.

See, that wasn't too technical of a post now was it? Because, you guessed it, I'm not technical :-)

I hope everyone has a great day! I'm hoping my back continues to feel better today and tomorrow, and then guess what? I'm gonna start walking again! And from there, I'm going to start running again! Ah, the possibilities! 


  1. What an interesting post! I enjoyed reading about your progression in picture taking. Mine are hit and miss that's for sure. When one comes out that makes me gasp with pleasure that is a real treat!

    I think I might fall asleep in class too, unless it was a LOT of hands-on learning.

    Have a great 4th of July weekend ~ FlowerLady

    1. Thank you FlowerLady! I know that feeling when comes out that makes you gasp. Such a good feeling :-)

      Hope you had a great holiday!

  2. I still need to do a lot of trial and error and figure out a good system. Working during the day makes it really hard to catch good light. Oh well, one of these days I'll get it figured out!

    1. I feel you Carlee! It's hard to catch the perfect light, especially when also working! I don't think I could have spent as much time working on photography if I was still at the bank :-)

      Hope you had a great holiday Carlee!

  3. What a fun post to see the change in your photography! Your photo's are so stunning!
    I struggle so much with natural light in our house (we have none), I have to take my photo's outside, and then what about the weather? I have looked into artificial lighting, but get so overwhelmed at the options. I am head off right now to check out the links you shared on getting better lighting!

    1. I have to admit, I shoot 95% of my photos with my artificial light. If it happens to be sunny out when I want to take some photos and I'm feeling too lazy to close all the windows, turn off all the lights, and set my corner up, I do shoot some photos outside. It can be so tricky to time the recipes and the outside light though. My little light was a little more than $100, and I've been using it non-stop since I got it in December of 2014. I haven't even had to change the bulb yet! It came with a reflector and everything. So, for a little more than $100, I've improved so much about picture taking. I realize not everyone wants to spend that kind of money on a hobby, but it's been well worth the investment for me :-)


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